Tri-State transmission planning focused on member value
As a G&T cooperative, Tri-State is committed to providing power to its 44 member systems to ensure that the lights are on with each flip of the switch. An integral part of that commitment involves the transmitting of power to the member co-ops over a safe, reliable transmission system. Tri-State currently owns more than 5,000 miles of transmission line and, with a number of projects underway and being planned for the future, transmission planning activities continue to take center stage in meeting the needs of its members.
Current transmission planning efforts focus on four main factors affecting Tri-State’s system – growth, reliability, requests to interconnect to Tri-State’s network and addressing aging facilities. According to Joel Bladow, senior vice president of transmission, these key areas are driving transmission planning while Tri-State continues to focus on the long-term needs of its members.
Presently, Tri-State has 46 applications in various stages of development for new or modified points of delivery from members and 67 pending requests in its interconnect queue, totaling more than 14,000 megawatts of potential new generation. These requests come from members and resource developers across all four states in Tri-State’s service territory.
“We want to make sure we’re building the right system while reducing risk to members and working collaboratively with other utilities,” he said. “Also we are looking at the long-term transmission needs of the region and planning to meet many goals, including reliably meeting our members’ needs and creating opportunity for renewable energy development.”
Toward that end, Tri-State is considering a potential partnership with Xcel Energy for a transmission project that would reach from the San Luis Valley to Pueblo County in southern Colorado. Tri-State identified the project to improve system reliability in the region, while Xcel has requirements under Colorado Senate Bill 100 to develop transmission to designated renewable energy zones. The proposed alliance with Xcel facilitates the export of future solar resources from the valley and provides a more robust transmission infrastructure to meet growth in southern Colorado.
Another critical area affecting Tri-State’s transmission planning is that of system rebalancing. Current baseload resources are located in western Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Arizona, while Tri-State’s largest load requirements lie in eastern Colorado. Building baseload on the eastern side of Tri-State’s system, through development of the Holcomb plant in Kansas and the Colorado Power Project near Holly, Colo., would not only supply power to areas in need in eastern Colorado, but put needed generation closer to its load source.
“This combination would reduce transmission costs while freeing up generation resources in western Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming to serve growing loads in those regions, ultimately creating a more balanced and efficient power supply system,” said Bladow.
Long-term transmission goals at Tri-State involve the integration across the region with open markets and continued stability to the transmission system as a whole. The plan could include Tri-State’s involvement in two “extra large” regional transmission projects that are in the preliminary stages – the High Plains Express and Sun Zia Southwest projects. In addition to strengthening regional reliability, these new power paths would allow the delivery of renewables throughout the eastern portion of Tri-State’s system, and into Arizona and possible markets in California.
Above all, Bladow said Tri-State’s top priority remains to safely and reliably deliver on the core mission work required to serve the association’s 44 member systems.
“We can’t forget about our day-to-day jobs,” he said. “We have a huge system with 5,000 miles of line and hundreds of substations, so it’s critical that we keep safety and the reliability to our members our top priority.”
Updated: September 22, 2008